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The Office

The Office is a comedy set in a paper sales company Dunder Mifflin. Shot in a mockumentary style the show follows the exploits of regional manager Michael Scott whose excruciating behaviour can make life difficult for his fellow employees. NBC 2005-???

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Episode 1 - Weight Loss

29 March 2012

Synopsis: We see Dunder Mifflin’s summer. Corporate offer a prize to the office that can lose the most weight and of course Michael takes it very seriously. Angela is still sleeping with Dwight while Andy plans their wedding. Pam is in New York on a design course and Jim ends up proposing to her. Ryan returns as a temp to replace Pam. Michael is still being friends with Holly even though he wants to ask her out. A forty minute long single episode.

The Good: There is a huge amount to like about the return of The Office. Last season the early double episodes didn’t work as well as they might have done. However with this episode the writers create an ideal structure to balance the pace of the action. The jokes and developments seem to flow very logically and you get a real sense of time passing.

This story also allows the writers to bridge the gap between seasons very effectively. Obviously they will want to do thanksgiving and Christmas stories and had they jumped across the summer we would have lost out on learning more about Holly and the various office relationships. It is also something of an answer to the writer’s strike which doubtless cost the producers several good ideas. So here we get forty minutes jam packed full of jokes and interesting ideas.

Most importantly of course is Jim’s proposal to Pam. I give huge credit to the writers for showing Pam flirting with a new guy on her course. I think it shows an impressive understanding of their audience to know that those invested in Jim and Pam would be groaning at the thought that they were about to go through another love triangle. It made Jim’s impromptu proposal all the more surprising and touching. It is a really nice moment for the show, well filmed and convincingly performed.

Meanwhile it is good to see Michael following Jim’s advice and not embarrassing himself in front of Holly. Michael is so much easier to enjoy when he isn’t humiliating himself. Speaking of which, though I still have issues with it (see The Bad), there is an honest attempt to give Angela better characterisation here. The stress of her impending wedding is driving her to seek comfort with Dwight and yet she manages to recognise Andy’s affection for her in a nice moment. This show of humanity is much needed if we are to accept Angela as a plausible character. She also has the best joke for once (see Comic Highlight).

The weight loss story is a good one on several levels. First off it is nice to see all the characters invested in the competition. The jokes flow more easily from the story compared to when the office is being coerced by Michael unwillingly. The story also fits with the passage of time aspect and provides a marker each week by which we can compare the various developments. Stanley has some nice moments admitting he needs to lose weight while Michael stays true to his character lecturing people about the dangers of obesity before corporate changes their mind and he gives another talk, this time about how all body shapes are beautiful.

Throughout the show the jokes flow easily from the weight loss story: everyone silently guessing Pam’s weight when she steps off the scale, Dwight filling the vending machines with fruit, Creed saying “That wasn’t a tape worm”, Kelly liking people talking about her body and Darryl eating a chocolate bar while weighing the others. But there are plenty of other jokes to enjoy as well like Jim suggesting he will fall for the new receptionist and Dwight’s comments on Michael’s suggestion that all Scranton men are handsome “Not that guy who murdered his mother. He was not so handsome. Urgh. Also Kevin.”

We even get some more subtle jokes, such as Ryan refusing to take responsibility for his actions by claiming “I think I never really processed 9\11.” And Jim questioning whether society has a problem or if it is Michael’s problem and then looking slightly impressed when Michael retorts “If it’s me, then society made me that way.”

The continuity from last season is good too with Phyllis blackmailing her way to head of the party planning committee and Holly learning that Kevin is not really mentally challenged. Poor Toby.

The Bad: Michael being rude to Ronnie the receptionist was unnecessary. But the main issue I have remains with Andy being so blind to Angela’s disinterest in him. Again it undercuts the credibility of the show when he looks so stupid. Part of the problem is that he is slightly ill defined as a character. With Dwight, Michael and Kevin we have a clear idea of the source of their ignorance. However Andy went to a good college and is a successful salesman so it is difficult to believe how blind he can be. But the writers did inject some sympathy into that story so I give them credit for addressing it.

Comic Highlight: After seeing Angela secretly sleeping with Dwight behind Andy’s back we get an interview shot of her. “I have a nice comforter and several cosy pillows. I usually read a chapter of a book, and its lights out by 8:30. That's how I sleep at night.” A really fun use of the interview format.

That’s what I said: A truly impressive season premiere from The Office. It is the only show I review which really grasped the need to premiere well and link one season to the next. Instead of the awkward jump in time which most shows suffered from, The Office decided to keep continuity strong while driving the story forward to new and interesting places. The humour is strong throughout, the story is good, the characters are fun. A triumphant return with Jim’s proposal as the cherry on top.

('DiggThis)

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